The Crimson Fairy Book
The Gifts Of The Magician
Once upon a time there was an old man who lived in a little hut in the middle of a forest.
His wife was dead, and he had only one son, whom he loved dearly. Near their hut was a
group of birch trees, in which some black-game had made their nests, and the youth had
often begged his father's permission to shoot the birds, but the old man always strictly
forbade him to do anything of the kind.
One day, however, when the father had gone to a little distance to collect some sticks for
the fire, the boy fetched his bow, and shot at a bird that was just flying towards its nest.
But he had not taken proper aim, and the bird was only wounded, and fluttered along the
ground. The boy ran to catch it, but though he ran very fast, and the bird seemed to flutter
along very slowly, he never could quite come up with it; it was always just a little in
advance. But so absorbed was he in the chase that he did not notice for some time that he
was now deep in the forest, in a place where he had never been before. Then he felt it
would be foolish to go any further, and he turned to find his way home.
He thought it would be easy enough to follow the path along which he had come, but
somehow it was always branching off in unexpected directions. He looked about for a
house where he might stop and ask his way, but there was not a sign of one anywhere,
and he was afraid to stand still, for it was cold, and there were many stories of wolves
being seen in that part of the forest. Night fell, and he was beginning to start at every
sound, when suddenly a magician came running towards him, with a pack of wolves
snapping at his heels. Then all the boy's courage returned to him. He took his bow, and
aiming an arrow at the largest wolf, shot him through the heart, and a few more arrows
soon put the rest to flight. The magician was full of gratitude to his deliverer, and
promised him a reward for his help if the youth would go back with him to his house.
'Indeed there is nothing that would be more welcome to me than a night's lodging,'
answered the boy; 'I have been wandering all day in the forest, and did not know how to
get home again.
'Come with me, you must be hungry as well as tired,' said the magician, and led the way
to his house, where the guest flung himself on a bed, and went fast asleep. But his host
returned to the forest to get some food, for the larder was empty.
While he was absent the housekeeper went to the boy's room and tried to wake him. She
stamped on the floor, and shook him and called to him, telling him that he was in great
danger, and must take flight at once. But nothing would rouse him, and if he did ever
open his eyes he shut them again directly.
Soon after, the magician came back from the forest, and told the housekeeper to bring
them something to eat. The meal was quickly ready, and the magician called to the boy to
come down and eat it, but he could not be wakened, and they had to sit down to supper